It feels extraordinarily brave. To write a book chronicling your darkest hours, revealing to the world those times that you didn’t even want to know yourself.
Having written their experiences of addiction, Mary-Lou Stephens and Susanna Freymark sat on stage in the Blue Marquee frankly speaking about their struggles and the process of finding a happily ever after.
“A lot of people have said how very brave it was to write this. But all this was in my twenties and thirties,” said Stephens. “I’ve had a lot of time and a lot of distance from that now.”
Freymark’s book started out as a short story. It just grew, she said, and the story needed a novel.
Her book, Losing February, is a fictionalised account of her own experiences as a sex and love addict.
“I’d been married at nineteen,” said Freymark. “I came straight out of twenty years of marriage to fall in love with the wrong person.
“I was forty but mentally I was still about twenty-one,” she said. “I felt utterly unlovable and I sought out situations that would prove that fact to myself.”
Stephens’ life has been a roll-call of addictions, beginning with food at age eight.
“I had been pretty much left to my own devices,” said Stephens. “It was gross neglect, and as a kid it’s easy to feel like that’s your fault. I thought I must be bad… food was my comfort, it gave me a high.
“I was exhibiting all the classic addiction characteristics; stealing money, lying, highs and lows.”
For Stephens, the catalyst to start giving away her addictions came with the death of her father.
“It made me realise my own mortality.
“I’d been trying to kill myself for years and, all of a sudden, I just realised, well, I don’t need to do that because it will happen anyway,” she said.
“I just suddenly realised that this life is limited and I may as well live instead of constantly trying to end it.”
Stephens writes about her years of addiction and eventual salvation in her book Sex, Drugs and Meditation. Although she has found her happy ending, she doesn’t believe it’s a possibility for every addict.
“To get better you need hope. Some people are too far gone, too devastated to find that,” said Stephens.
Freymark sees it differently. She said she has to believe that everyone can find a happy ending, it’s just a matter of how.
Emily Handley is a Southern Cross University Arts student.